Thursday, January 17, 2013

NHLPA makes questionable call on rookie cards

According to multiple sources (link), the NHLPA has decided that the 2012-13 hockey cards will only contain rookies that made their debut during the second half of the 2011-12 season.

In case you don't know why that is significant, here's some background:

One of the biggest draws in trading cards are rookies.  Everyone wants to own the first card produced for every great player.  Take a look at the base rookie card for Sid, from 2005-06 Upper Deck:
Sidney Crosby 2005-06 Young Guns Example 1
Sidney Crosby 2005-06 Young Guns Example 2

In other words, if you want a Sidney Crosby rookie (and the Young Guns cards are generally considered to be the base rookie worth getting), you're going to pay about $250.  If you want one that has been professionally graded and has a decent grade, be prepared to pay much more than that.

This came from a pack of cards that cost about $3.00.

Obviously we're looking at the most desirable rookie card since Mario Lemieux (or maybe Patrick Roy), but the point is that rookies drive the sales on most products.

So when the NHLPA says it will prevent the normal rookies (ie, last year's draft picks like Neil Yakupov) from appearing in 2012-13 hockey cards, they are seriously harming hockey card sales for this season.

Upper Deck, one of the two licencees that can produce hockey cards, is primarily doing hockey cards these days - it is their only remaining major sports license.  I can't imagine this going to help them.

It also means that if you buy hockey cards, you can expect to pay more in 2013-14.  Why?  Because it will be a year with a double rookie class.  That same thing happened after the last lockout, and the 2005-06 card sets are loaded.  I don't think 2013-14 will contain both a Crosby and an Ovechkin (plus a TON of other really good players), but it will drive demand and ratchet up the box prices on the secondary market.

I can't see how this is a good move for the card companies (Upper Deck and Panini).  If I were them, I'd rather have been able to have a strong second half of 2012-13 and then had a normal 2013-14.  They aren't likely to charge a higher base price for their product, and they certainly aren't going to make up the lost sales on what is essentially filler for the rest of this season.

Very curious.

No comments: